Sesame Workshop and Tiggly have long been favorites of TWA, because of their dedication to educate children in a sensory rich and delightful manner. Of course, Sesame Street is legendary and is a vital part of many children's early learning experiences worldwide. Tiggly was one of the first companies to integrate manipulatives with their apps so that kids could access and better retain material by activating a child’s whole body in play and learning. So imagine the news…. that Sesame Workshop Apps has teamed with Tiggly to create a game with Cookie Monster as the host, and students use Tiggly's vowel manipulatives to experiment and create words. Wowie, it just doesn’t get more fun than that! Sesame Street Alphabet Kitchen by Sesame Workshop Apps, is an absolute joy, and is a TWA essential for teaching early literacy skills with beginning word decoding and recognition. Gameplay centers on baking with Cookie Monster, and he needs help to make and decorate cookies made out of constructing 3-4 letter words. With his alphabet cutters, he is able to cut out the first and last letters in a word, but just can’t quite come up with a vowel to make a word and turn it into a yummy cookie. Included are practice with CVC and words with consonant blends. Each letter or blend is sounded out, and the word is put in a sentence so kids learn the meaning and context of its use. And here is what takes this already excellent app over the top – If kids have the Tiggly vowel manipulatives, they can cut into the dough to make that cookie come to life. There is an option to play the app without the physical product, but by using the letters you tap into practical life skills and it's a wonderful segue into off screen fun. Bringing the tactile and motor systems on board, kids learn how to grasp and manipulate objects in space, improving grasp and eye hand coordination. Here they learn not only correct placement of letters, but also the motor sequence to words by making cutout cookies in a safe environment with an old time blue friend. This is truly a manifestation of one of Tiggly's mottos to "learn what you feel". After cutting the letters - into the magic mixing bowl they go, happy and ready for a little color mixing play. Icings are squirted into the bowls, and swirled to mix. The colors are subtle, but there are changes in hue when mixing them in the bowl. I love how pre-writing strokes are incorporated into the app for young explorers. The mixing encourages digital isolation, intrinsic hand strengthening, and making horizontal and vertical lines, circular, and diagonal strokes as well as teaching about the subtleties of color. This is one app that delivers on the promise of improving fine motor skills. After mixing, the cookie is displayed in all its bakery-store glory and put on the shelf for all to see and admire. A fun feature that has been added is the ability to take your own picture and be included in the app, framed on Cookie’s wall. After baking four cookies, it’s time to eat them…well you hand them to Cookie Monster, and I am sure he plans on sharing…but he just can’t help himself. He eats them ALL! What a perfect time to discuss self-regulation and impulse control. Allowing kids to see Cookie Monster gobbling up the cookies is a sure fire way to introduce discussing the consequences of your actions. Additionally, using the app with the manipulatives can help with improving attention and also help kids that have difficulty with visual processing, motor planning, or staying seated. The app is built for positioning kids - especially on their bellies, and will be an asset to teachers and therapists everywhere. Why is belly time so important? Kids today spend a lot of time on their backs and don’t get the benefits from being awake and on their tummies. Kids who spend time on their tummies learn how to separate body components – up/down/left right and can visually converge on a target, and because they have desensitized their hands and face, they are then open to new information from their environment. Most importantly they gain graded control of their eyes, head, neck, and trunk. And finally sit in a seat. These are all skills that are needed for being a successful student - By having consistent sensory input, responses are consistent too and then these experiences are further reinforced through practice and play. In other words, by not having to work so hard to keep it together physically, kids can explore because they have created a dependable “vessel” for learning to occur, and make lessons stick. Tip: Try placing the manipulatives on one side of the body and the iPad on the other so kids cross midline to gather the pieces or scatter pieces in different places so that kids need to reach or visually scan to find them. What great practice in coordinating their senses and body together. In addition by interacting with the manipulatives, kids learn about grading force – not only with handling the manipulatives, but they can also transfer this knowledge to practical life. Through play, kids are not only learning the sequence to making cookies, but to other life skills. Have your child direct in making or decorating cookies is a great off screen activity! There are 2 items on my wishlist for future updates. I would love to see Cookie Monster after making cookies in the segment where he talks to children to have a full body – currently it is just his head in space. This is a minor request, but it would reinforce body awareness and Cookie Monster can then model being more grounded. Secondly, I wish there were directions on eliminating pictures taken with Cookie, as many kids are happy clickers when it comes to the art of taking selfies. In summary, the magic of Sesame Workshop Apps and Tiggly is that it is not just for kids. When playing with a child and watching them discover the joy of learning, it makes it twice the fun. Sesame Workshop Apps and Tiggly have made an app, which raises the bar in the education of young children. It is what most apps aspire to and rarely achieve. They have made learning fun! Sesame Street Alphabet Kitchen is a TWA Top Pick and one we’d wish for every child to have the opportunity to play. The decision to get it is a snap! Jo Booth OTR/L has been an Occupational Therapist for over 35 years, and currently practices at EasterSeals of Sepa, Montgomery County Division mainly focusing in Early Intervention. It is an APS (Approved Private School) and home outreach based setting. She has also worked in Adolescent and Adult Rehabilitation. Writing reviews for Teachers With Apps has been a tremendous opportunity and experience to share and learn with others.
Written by Jo Booth
Jo Booth has been an Occupational Therapist for over 30 years and currently works in Pediatrics with early intervention. She sees kids newly diagnosed on the spectrum as well as medically fragile kids. She loves to move, explore and play every day; so that “her kids” grow up to be healthy independent learners.